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Commentary: New year provides a chance to resolve lingering issues

Issue Date: January 8, 2014
By Bob Stallman
Bob Stallman
Despite frequent political gridlock in Washington, Farm Bureau made progress on important agricultural issues during 2013, several of which could be resolved in the new year.

The old expression, "The more things change, the more they stay the same" is fitting as we ring in the new year.

As we begin 2014, farmers are facing down many of the same legislative issues we were a year ago: farm bill, immigration, waterways infrastructure, taxes, and the list goes on. But while on the surface it looks like not a heck of a lot was accomplished in the past year, in spite of what was a contentious political year, solid progress was made on several of Farm Bureau's priority issues.

As the popular Christmas/New Year song goes: "What have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun," I can't help but look back at 2013 and think that Farm Bureau definitely moved the needle on our key issues. A farm bill will likely be completed early in the new year, the Senate and House passed a waterways bill and the labor issue progressed further than it has in its history.

I daresay that the issues on our agenda moved as far, or further, than those of any other policy advocacy organization.

In addition, Farm Bureau had a huge judicial win with the Lois Alt case. We joined Mrs. Alt in standing up to the Environmental Protection Agency when it threatened her with enormous fines for ordinary stormwater runoff. Unfortunately, agriculture is increasingly going to have to use the judicial branch to stop agencies like EPA from overreaching and trying to make political hay by targeting farmers. And rest assured that Farm Bureau will keep working to protect farmers and ranchers on these important issues.

Looking ahead, farmers and ranchers will have a full plate in 2014. In addition to completing the farm bill and implementing a new five-year law, passing waterways and port infrastructure legislation out of Congress and continuing our work on agricultural labor, a lot more work remains on other important issues.

Tax reform and the federal budget will take center stage as we continue pushing for rational budget reforms and prioritized spending cuts to put America's fiscal policy back on track. Instead of continually plunging off of one budget cliff and shooting down the rapids to the next, we must look for fair and balanced solutions. In doing so, we need to make real progress on individual and business tax reforms that affect farmers' and ranchers' profitability. This, too, will help bolster economic recovery.

Farmers and ranchers will continue to battle perennial regulatory creep in 2014, particularly as it relates to waters of the United States. Current proposed regulations that we know are under review completely ignore repeated U.S. Supreme Court decisions that uphold congressional intent and deny EPA the right to create law on a regulatory whim. If these regulations are adopted and enforced, farmers and ranchers can expect that nearly everything they do pertaining to water on their farms and ranches will be regulated by EPA.

On a separate note, another year has passed and we are still awaiting Food and Drug Administration clarity on how various proposed food safety rules will affect farmers. With the complexity inherent in each of these rules, Farm Bureau is joining the call with other farm groups and state regulatory officials urging FDA to provide an adequate period of time to thoroughly review all of the "final" proposals together, in order to avoid unnecessary, and potentially unfair, regulatory requirements that do little to improve food safety.

So, while we have a lot on the horizon this coming year, Farm Bureau stands ready to take these challenges and opportunities head on. It's time to clean our plate.

(Bob Stallman, a cattle and rice producer from Texas, is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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